Zika: Canada launches clean-up operations in Alberta

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The two new cases were discovered by public health officials during sampling of water supplies

A province in Alberta is the latest to start distributing condoms for sex workers in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus that causes Zika.

Alberta officials also say that new screening and tracing procedures for travellers entering the province will begin.

Awareness campaigns are being launched in the communities where the virus was detected.

Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to infection because of the symptoms, which are not usually serious.

“We’re working hard to stop the spread of this virus, but we need to do more,” said Nicole Hutton, deputy minister of epidemiology for Alberta.

The new measures are in response to two cases of Zika infection that were discovered in recent weeks.

They were a woman in her 40s who was staying at a shelter in the city of Grande Prairie, north of Edmonton, and a man who was visiting a relative in Lethbridge.

Zika was first detected in Alberta in July 2017. At that time, it was thought to have been confined to the northern Rocky Mountains.

The virus was believed to have been spread through mosquitoes carrying the virus. But two samples taken from travellers returning from international travel in Latin America and the Caribbean tested positive for the virus.

‘Anti-social behaviour’

Some public health officials claim the cases show the stigma of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes continues to attach itself to sexually transmitted infections like Zika.

“It does call for increased awareness, yes,” Dr Katherine Bayley, regional medical officer of health for the Medicine Hat Health Region, told the CBC.

“When that first report came in, it was an eye-opener for us, we were thinking that we had all these wet months, we’d probably have very little mosquito activity at that time. And here we are coming close to the end of our rainy season, and we have two reported cases.”

“There’s certainly a concern for sexually transmitted infections, in particular Zika. And that really is a symptom of what has really turned out to be a socially irresponsible attitude on how people live their lives.”

Nonetheless, Dr Bayley says the risk to Canadians travelling abroad is low. There are no plans to release a warning in Canadian and American travellers.

“The Aedes aegypti mosquito is a really interesting mosquito,” she said. “It can become really hardy, and it can be found all over the place.

“However, this is not going to be a problem unless somebody has an infectious virus, and so the best thing people can do is just be prepared. They can protect themselves, and they can spread the disease to others.”

Leave a Comment